Outbreak response committees (or crisis cells) are formed at the national, regional and/or district level depending on the extent of the outbreak and health system structure. These committees coordinate the outbreak response at their respective levels.
The committees meet on a regular basis: daily at the start of the outbreak, and then weekly until operations are over. The meetings are short and have clear agendas.
The minutes are distributed to managers at each level and to the partners. Feedback can also be given via a weekly report relaying the essential information.
4.9.1 Composition of the committees
At each level, the committee is composed of representatives from:
– Ministry of Health;
– Hospitals, cholera treatment structures;
– Water and sanitation services;
– Administrative authorities;
– Support agencies (WHO, UNICEF, bilateral cooperation) and non-governmental organizations.
Outbreak response requires close coordination with other sectors, which may participate in specific meetings on an as-needed basis. These sectors include:
– Media: radio, newspapers and television disseminate information on the existence of an outbreak, the symptoms of the disease, treatment locations, free care, etc.;
– Customs: can facilitate the importation of drugs and equipment;
– Public safety: the police can help maintain order during large mass vaccination campaigns.
4.9.2 Role of committees
The Terms of Reference (responsibilities and decision-making level) are drawn up on a case-by-case basis.
The national committee defines the strategy for surveillance, patient management, vaccination, public information and health promotion. It must provide appropriate solutions for the implementation of outbreak response (Table 4.4).
The national committee defines roles and responsibilities of descending-level committees (region, district). It also supervises activities, mobilizes the necessary resources, and coordinates and informs partners at the national level.
As evaluation is a component of any operation, the committee must ensure regular reviews of implementation. The aim is to improve operations by formulating recommendations with regard to what is being done in practice.
Table 4.4 - Objectives and key responsibilities of the national committee
The other levels (regional and district) are involved in surveillance and alerts, data management, and response implementation.
They transmit information to the national level daily or weekly according to the phase of the outbreak.